Caring for the


by Daniel Huffine, Melissa Poe, Sara Tierney,  Marianne Capps, Linda Alexander, Mahira Ali

The Challenge

Caregivers tend to ignore their own physical, emotional and mental health in order to care for their loved one. We were charged with designing a solution within 24 hours to help relieve the stress of being a full time caregiver. 







The Hackathon

Ok Jack Bauer, 24 hours might seem like a long time to you, but we aren't all rogue federal agents trained in advanced combat, "enhanced interrogation" and whisper shouting.  I have a strict bed time of 10PM and am entirely useless without my beauty sleep.

Melissa Poe and I (both Brandcenter XDs) were paired up with a team of Occupational Health doctoral candidates and Biomedical Engineering students to form Team Butterball (formally known as Team VCU.)

Along with several other teams from top Virginia schools, our team was paired with a caregiver, given a room, a box of markers, unlimited Red Bull, and only 24 hours to concept, design, and prototype a solution.

Our team's passion, talent, and attention to the needs of our caregiver landed us first prize.


A Dream Come True

Ever since the "Fun Run" episode of The Office: An American Workplace,

it has been a personal goal of mine to one day receive a

large novelty check.

I guess dreams do come true!

The Cheryl

Our team was paired with Cheryl who spent the entire 24 hours with us sharing her story, her insights, and support. She cares for her 20 year old son who was traumatically injured as a child and is unable to be left alone for any amount of time.

Cheryl has spent the last decade caring for her son, spending countless hours in doctor's offices, at physical therapy sessions, and at home with him.  At one point we asked her, "How do you spend your free time?" and she responded with a blank stare.

Cheryl's entire world is caring for her son, but Cheryl needs to be cared for too.  We set out to find a way to simply give Cheryl more free time in her life, and kept her needs in mind during the entire design process.


Cheryl's Pain Points

(and other caregivers too)

We identified that the part of caregiving that causes

Cheryl the most day to day stress and frustration is aide management.

When Cheryl hires a new aide, it is up to her to train the aide in nearly every aspect

of caring for her son.  Since every person receiving care from a caregiver requires personalized care, we theorized (and later validated) that all caregivers who hire additional aides also struggle with this.

We identified that the three areas of aide management that Cheryl struggles with are: training, scheduling, and communication, so we set out to design a solution that would streamline aide management by address these three areas.

Our Solution

Hummingbird is a platform that centralizes aide management and training.  Caregivers can can easily create secure, digital training for their aides, share these trainings within their network of aides, schedule aides, and contact them with ease.


Many caregivers have physical copies of training materials that they have created specifically for their loved one or were given to them by a medical professional.  We wanted to create a solution that would make these trainings more effective, more secure, and most importantly easier to manage for the Caregiver.

Our solution was to create a personal, easily editable database that caregivers could easily transfer their physical materials to and share with their network of aides.


We wanted to create a solution that would make scheduling, documentation of hours worked, and payment easier for caregivers and their aides.  Our solution allows caregivers to easily post shifts they need covered and makes it easier for aides to see available shifts for multiple clients.  Our scheduling feature also makes payment of aides easier, documenting their hours worked so that caregivers can more easily complete Medicaid waivers or pay the aides directly.


The more aides a caregiver hires, the harder it can be to communicate with them effectively.  We included a messaging feature so that caregivers and aides could keep a record of their communications in a single platform.


The Future!

Hummingbird lives on!  Though we planned on it being a one-off, our solution was met with such excitement that our team has decided to take a crack at bringing this piggy to market.  As part of our prize (did I mention we won the hackathon?) we have the opportunity to partner with a start-up app-celerator who is providing us with mentorship and potentially some cold hard American dollar bills.

We are currently working to secure funding to create a fully realized proof of concept.